For Todays Younger Audiophiles, Everything Is About Value

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My audiophile publishing comeback wasn’t supposed to ever happen. When I sold HomeTheaterReview.com and AudiophileReview.com back in late December 2019, I told anybody that would listen that I was pretty much done. I was looking for some new challenges and even with the profound effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, I found plenty of them, including a high-pressure job at a Fortune 500 company and some pretty serious illnesses that I am thankfully coming back from nicely now. A few months away from the end of my non-compete agreement (which limited me from selling ads in the home theater space, not the audiophile space), I had a number of compelling conversations with some of my AV industry friends. Many got into the question of how many audiophiles we know under 40 years old. The short answer for nearly all of us was: not many. Nobody’s number was higher than 10.

A young audiophile driven by value
Brandon Wasser is a young audiophile driven by value and audiophile performance

Mind you: these younger buyers are actually out there in the wild, but they’re not necessarily part of the same conversation we Gen-X and older audiophiles are having. You have to know where to find them. But one came to my attention recently via a former writer from my old publication, Scott Wasser. His son Brandon is 22 and a recent graduate from business school in Maine. He could have likely gotten into to a more vanity-brand school for double the money, but that isn’t how Brandon rolls. He’s just starting to build a book of business as a money manager in the financial services business. He has already earned his Series 7 certification (no cakewalk, by the way) and he’s now ready to help people make and protect some serious money. 

Brandon grew up with his father being a successful editor of newspapers mostly with a unique focus on consumer electronics. Brandon was able to inherit some gear over the years to cobble together the basics of an AV system, including an old but sizable plasma TV, a Denon receiver, some Definitive Technology speakers, and a few other goodies. In moving out of the house and into a situation with two other young adults, he was also able to upgrade from a pair of Sony noise canceling headphones into a larger-scale music playback system.

Many new-school audiophiles come to the hobby via gaming
Many new-school audiophiles come to the hobby via gaming

Four Important Things to Know About This 22-Year-Old AV Enthusiast

  1. Value is everything to him. When asked what would he buy if he had just won Powerball? His answer was solid and well thought-out. He said, “I wouldn’t buy anything differently,as I value owning real estate over audio and video components at this point in my life.” Smart kid.
  2. Gaming is his first love. Having personally called literally ever stereo store and custom installation firm (I am not kidding – 2,500 in total in North America), not a single one of them gets it when it comes to the importance of gaming. Why? Because they don’t like money, growth, and younger clients, I would guess. Today, the video game industry is larger than all of Hollywood movies and music combined it terms of top-line revenue. Why would one want to tap in to that market loaded with kids that are looking for the Nth degree of performance and willing to spend real money to get an advantage? Who else seeks the Nth degree of performance and is willing to pay a pretty penny for it? Oh…
  3. Surround sound is very important to Brandon. Unlike some younger users who are into vintage audio and specifically vinyl, Brandon likes himself some object-based surround. His next upgrades will be to speakers that have provisions for height/side channels on top of thin/tall floorstanding speakers. He likes a good stereo image but he loves the full, visceral experience of immersive sound.
  4. Sonos already has their fangs into him. Don’t get me wrong, I like Sonos, but it is a bit of a close-ended system that once you enter into you tend to stay tied to like a cult. It’s a bit like Apple in that respect. I am not that sucked in and perhaps Brandon will not be either, but it is something to make a note of regarding future upgrade paths. Those of us who have been around since the only way to do distributed audio was via massively complex custom-installed systems with elaborate wiring sort of view all of these new wireless multiroom ecosystems as nascent and—ultimately—sort of interchangeable. For younger audiophiles who grew up with Sonos as a playback system, there may be far more inertia and less inclination to switch to something like HEOS or BluOS or fussier systems like Play-Fi.

For Brandon, the driving force behind all of his decisions these days is value. The fact that he didn’t go $150,000-plus into debt to have some fancy Ivy League degree shows you how bright this young man is. The fact that he understands the long-term asset value of real estate (forget the recent, giant spike in interest rates) is equally as impressive. He is going to manage money well for people, I just have a good feeling about him.

I wouldn’t bet against this kid for one second. With his smarts and, even more so, with his overall savviness , he’s going to own real estate in a matter of only a few years. Maybe he will rent back to his current roommates for a while and be able to buy a home for himself with the income generated? Now, that’s not a bad plan…

What will be interesting to follow is how Brandon’s audio/video upgrade path develops over time. He has an older version of Sony’s top-of-the-line Bluetooth headphones (buy at Crutchfield. He bought a pair of the new ones that I reviewed recently and he actually returned them because the delta in performance over his old cans just wasn’t worth the money for him. This young man doesn’t play the fool. He values value and he doesn’t just blow his money because some influencer tells him to. Welcome to the new audiophile paradigm.